The Ragtag Titles of ‘A League of Their Own’

There’s a new television series streaming on Amazon Prime based on the 1992 comedy from director Penny Marshall ‘A League of Their Own’. The series is a re-telling, not a prequel or sequel and has its own brand of unique charm that fans of the film will appreciate.

There’s a lot to love in A League of Their Own including new a cast of diverse, realistic characters, a roster full of laughs, a spectacular big band soundtrack and some top-notch acting and visual effects. I really appreciate the visual style of the series with its period costumes, old fashion cars and 1940’s locations which all seem on point.

One of my favorite parts is the show’s opening credits. Lasting only three to five seconds, the title is displayed as a montage of homemade baseball patches in dozens (maybe hundreds?) of sewn styles. I went through and screen captured all of the patches from the opening of the first three episodes. To say they are amazing is an understatement.

Click for a closer view of some of the title sequence patches.

My mind boggles at the amount of work that went into these patches. Each looks to be hand-sewn (not CGI) with distinct color palettes, fabrics and thread patterns. I adore how much care went into making them look home grown and not machine-stitched perfect. They are absolutely charming and I look forward to seeing the rest of the patches at the start of each episode of season 1. I’d love to see a behind-the-scenes story of the production design explaining how they were created, how many total were fabricated, filmed and who designed them.

I’m really enjoying A League of Their Own on Prime. If you loved the original film but felt the characters lacked a bit of depth, or just want to chill out in some 1940’s nostalgia, you’ll most likely love the TV series. Check it out!

Own A Piece of Me Courtesy of Etsy

There’s a new shop on the block over on Etsy, Ged’s Art Depot. I’ve been thinking about selling some of my artwork online for years but kept putting it off month after month, year after year. No longer.

Like most artists, it takes time to build the confidence needed to put your creations out there for others to own. It’s quite possible I’ll sell only a handful of these prints of my work, but that really isn’t the point. The point is to keep pushing myself to create, to express myself and give me an incentive to keep producing the kinds of stuff I would personally like to own. Naturally my work centers around science fiction and popular culture because those are the things I personally love most, but I don’t intend to limit myself to those topics.

For now, I’m offering a small collection of hand-drawn pieces that I created on my iPad Pro with my Apple Pencil. Every one was lovingly crafted by me to capture some aspect of the subject, the play of light on unique materials, the exacting details of a fictional device or the feeling of nostalgia of a favorite toy from childhood.

I’m also trying to make these items as frictionless as possible. They arrive to you signed, framed and ready to be hung in your home or as a special gift for that geeky someone in your life. For now I can only ship to the United States but if things take off I may expand to include international shipping. One step at a time however.

Now through November 30th I’m offering a 10% discount to help celebrate the launch of my Etsy store. Click here to take advantage of the discount when ordering.

Warp on over and check out my listings. Hopefully you’ll find something there that sparks the kid in you. Perhaps a drawing that brings a smile to your face or evokes a special childhood memory.

I also want to offer a thank-you to everyone who’s supported my efforts over the years to get me to this point. I’m blessed with wonderful friends, some with cool Etsy shops of their own, talented peers and some of the best Twitter followers anyone could ever ask for. I appreciate all of your support more than you realize and can’t wait to see where all of this support takes me. Let’s do this.

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘The Squire of Gothos’

There are so many omnipotent aliens in Star Trek it’s hard even for a Trekker like myself to keep track of them all. One of the very first such super-beings Kirk and company encounter is Trelane of the planet Gothos. Trelane snatches Sulu and Captain Kirk from the bridge of the Enterprise to lure the crew to the planet and pick their brains about humanity’s barbaric nature. Trelane’s been observing Earth for some time but due to general relativity, he’s been spying on historical events some 900 years in the past.

Trelane is played with gleeful delight by actor William Campbell who would go on to play the Klingon Captain Koloth in the iconic original series episode ‘The Trouble With Tribbles’. Years later Campbell reprised his role as Koloth in Deep Space Nine’s second season episode ‘Blood Oath’, becoming one of the few actors to portray the same character on both the original series and on one of the spin-off series. According Memory Alpha, Campbell described his role on DS9’s ‘Blood Oath’ as his most difficult acting job, but one he would have liked to have had the chance to play again.

Watching Trelane prance around, tormenting the crew and ultimately even putting Captain Kirk on trial, one can’t help think of yet another mischievous being that tortured the crew of a different Starship Enterprise, namely Q.

Trelane might easily be mistaken for the younger cousin of Q, played brilliantly in Star Trek: The Next Generation by John Delancie. All the Q hallmarks are on display – limitless power, poor impulse control, even cosmic temper tantrums! Delancie even theorized in an interview that Gene Roddenberry drew inspiration from himself and Trelane when he created Q.

The apparent similarities between the characters draw to a close at the very end of the episode. Trelane has Kirk trapped and is about run our dear Captain through when we suddenly hear the voices his “parents” calling out to him. It turns out Trelane is just a mischievous boy who’s tortured his playthings a little too much and must be punished. Time to come in for dinner, Trelane! They apologize to Captain Kirk and send the Enterprise on its merry way.

Our one perfect shot comes as Kirk tries to size the alien up before him and decide just what he’s dealing with in the flamboyant ‘Squire of Gothos’.

Next up is one of my all-time favorite episodes of Star Trek, the iconic ‘Arena’ where Kirk fights for his life (and gets his tunic torn yet again) battling a walking, talking, hissing lizard.

Check out the entire series of perfect Star Trek shots to date.

Star Trek LCARS Wallpaper 2021

iPhone lock screen showing the Star Trek LCARS 2021 wallpaper

It’s been over six years since I released my original Star Trek LCARS wallpapers for iOS and today I’m happy to report yet another update for all you geeky Trek fans out there.

LCARS 2021 brings Star Trek’s futuristic user interface, designed by Michael Okuda, to modern iPhones. What’s more, I’ve done my best to future proof the wallpapers so when Apple adjusts the position of lock screen elements like the date, time, flashlight and camera buttons the wallpaper will fit properly and still look great with a minimum of setup.

The wallpaper re-design is inspired by Picard, the TV series that debuted last year on CBS All Access (soon become Paramount+). Season 2 of Picard will hopefully debut in late 2021 and so I wanted release this so fans could enjoy it prior to the premiere.

I took visual cues from on-screen elements such as button shapes, typographic refinements and the cooler color palettes seen in the show. The result feels more modern and looks great on the latest iPhones which is sure to put a smile on the face of any Star Trek fan.

I’m providing LCARS 2021 in two downloads that should cover all of the modern iPhone screen aspect ratios available today. There are subtle design differences so be sure to choose the right wall for your particular device:

• iPhone SE, 7, 8 & 9 – Picard LCARS
• iPhone XR, X, 11 & 12 – Picard LCARS

Select the download link of your device above to view it and then tap and hold on the image in Safari to save it to your camera roll. Next, view it in the roll and tap the sharing icon > Use as Wallpaper. Be sure to pinch out on the image and adjust vertical position if needed and finally turn perspective zooming OFF, tap Set and select Set Lock Screen to finish.

Want More?

If you’re looking for the full Montgomery Scott, then head on over to the Iconfactory’s Patreon account. When you subscribe to the Superheroes level ($10) a month, you’ll not only get two additional color ways (Next Generation + Star Trek: Lower Decks) of the iPhone wallpaper but you’ll also get snazzy, expanded iPad versions in these three color ways.

iPhone lock screen showing the Star Trek LCARS 2021 wallpaper

The iPad walls also comes with three, fun content variants to help turn your device into that Starfleet PADD you have always dreamt about.

I hope you enjoy these latest and greatest updates both here and over on Patreon. Please consider subscribing if you are inclined, we want to keep making kick-ass wallpapers for years to come and your generous support helps make it so.

Engage and enjoy!

Hey, Travis Crabtree, The Legend of Boggy Creek Is Getting Remastered!

My favorite horror flick of all time, The Legend of Boggy Creek, has been lovingly restored and remastered and is coming to blu ray. The 1972 docudrama about the legendary “Fouke Monster”, or plain Bigfoot for you cryptozoological muggles out there, has been lovingly restored by the daughter of its creator, Pamula Pierce, and looks positively amazing.

I first saw Boggy Creek at a drive in theater with my parents as a kid and it made an impression on me that has lasted a lifetime. The film is the perfect mix of tall tales told by folksy locals, a cheesy soundtrack, out-of-focus monster shots and a vintage 70’s vibe that make it required viewing around Halloween each year. I’ve made Boggy wallpapers, written blog posts and enjoyed this flick since I was a kid (believe it or not it was rated “G” for general audiences) so I’m over the spooky moon with this news.

I’m a little concerned that cleaning up the film will detract from its overall feel of nostalgia but I’m willing to take that risk and support the efforts of the filmmakers. The film has never looked this good before so watching highlights from the restored version on YouTube is a bit surreal but to its credit still manages to give me goosebumps!

If you are a Boggy Creek fan like I am, be sure to head over to the official website and sign up to be notified when the film comes to blu ray sometime “this fall”. In the meantime, lock your doors, stay away from your windows and remember, he always travels the creek!

One Perfect Shot: Star Trek’s ‘The Galileo Seven’

Back in 1967, fans of Star Trek were a little more than a dozen episodes into the new series and were craving to explore stories about one of their favorite new characters – the logical and enigmatic Mr. Spock. They got their wish in The Galileo Seven which thrust Spock into the command chair with his fellow Enterprise crew members in tow.

Kirk sends a shuttlecraft with a crew of seven to explore the Murasaki 312 quasar (re-rendered in spectacular fashion for the 2007 series remastering) when they are pulled off course and crash land on Taurus II, a lone planet at the heart of Murasaki 312. The planet is inhabited by a species of giant, “cave-man”-like humanoids who have a penchant for being just out of focus and throwing huge spears. Spock must solve problem after problem to try and save those under his command, all while dealing with an insubordinate junior office named Lt. Boma and of course the ever-cantackerous Dr. McCoy.

‘The Galileo Seven’ is notable primarily because it gave Leonard Nimoy center stage for the first time in the original series, something the actor later admitted he struggled with on the set. William Shatner’s Captain Kirk is sidelined from the main action, leading the search and rescue from his comfy chair on the bridge of the Enterprise. Meanwhile Spock, McCoy, Scotty and the rest of the shuttle crew are literally fighting for their lives back on Taurus II.

This was one of those episodes that kept me up late at night as a kid. The shadowy monsters, always lurking just out of sight of our heroes pushed all my fearful Bigfoot buttons as a boy. The fact that we never got a clear look at the creature’s faces only heightened the effect and was a happy accident during production. Special effects master Wah Chang created the ape-creature makeup to be shown on camera but it was considered by censors to be too grotesque to show in close-ups and so our imaginations are left to run wild.

Spock and crew examine the dead and hidden body of Latimer

Apparently the censors were working overtime for this episode because the scene where Latimer is killed was considered too gruesome and an additional mist effect was added to obscure the giant spear protruding from his dead body. How times would change.

This episode also marks one of the first occurrences of a VIP coming onboard the Enterprise and seriously mucking things up. Galactic High Commissioner Ferris joins the ranks of Robert Fox from “A Taste of Armageddon’, Commodore Matt Decker from ‘The Doomsday Machine’ and Richard Daystrom from ‘The Ultimate Computer’ as people who just don’t know how to quit when standing on the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

Our one perfect shot comes as Scotty, McCoy and the surviving crew of the Shuttlecraft Galileo do their very best duck and cover impression while Spock tries to methodically deduce why his Vulcan logic has not only failed to rescue them but also harbor resentment among the crew.

Next up Kirk and company meet the enigmatic, omni-powerful being Trelane in ‘The Squire of Gothos‘.

Check out the entire series of perfect Star Trek shots to date.

Testing the T-Shirt Waters

If you’re like me and like to create things, then you probably know what it’s like when you don’t get the opportunity to express yourself. If I go too long without having an outlet for my thoughts and ideas, I get frustrated, depressed and anxious. Over the years I’ve had many avenues for my creativity, from icons and making apps to writing, cooking and even gardening.

Now I’m trying something new in the form of fun t-shirt designs over at TeePublic. Inspired by the designs of my friend and co-worker, Anthony Piraino, I’ve worked up a bunch of fun t-shirts based on favorite television shows, movies and original artwork. If you’re familiar with my work, or are a geek, then many of these will probably appeal to you. The original shirts I’ve created based around the cult 80’s movies The Last Starfighter and Buckaroo Banzai: Across the 8th Dimension are among my favorites.

A modern version of the Star League logo from 'The Last Starfighter'

An adorable poo emoji gins widely back at you

A cool technical schematic of the Oscillation Overthruster from the 80's movie Buckaroo Banzai

A fun smilie in dorky glasses with buck teeth

My own retro take on the Team Banzai logo from the 80's film Buckaroo Banzai

I have ideas for more shirt designs I’d like to post so if you like what you see, head on over to my store at TeePublic and grab a few. Nothing motivates an artist like knowing what they’ve done is enjoyed by others. T-shirts make great stocking stuffers too and if you hurry you can still get them delivered in time for Christmas. If you have an idea for a t-shirt you’d like to see, drop me an email or send me a suggestion on Twitter. You never know!

iPhone X Wallpaper Updates

iPhone X lock screen showing the Star Trek LCARS wallpaper

If you’re the proud owner of a slick new iPhone X then I have some good news. I’ve updated three of my lock screen wallpapers for the new device and boy do they look great. The iPhone X’s new OLED screen means blacks are truly black resulting in a stunning appearance for lock screen designs like my popular Star Trek LCARS wallpaper. The design also seamlessly blends with the device’s bezel to create a fun Next Generation feel in your hands. The LCARS lock screen even comes in four variants so there’s lots options to try out.

I’ve also updated my Twin Peaks and Pokéwall wallpapers as well so be sure to check them out too. I’ll probably update the others (Westworld & Cosmos) in time but for now these three updates would make great additions to any iPhone X lock or home screen. Enjoy!

Twin Peaks Wallpapers for iPhone & iPad

iPhone lock screen showing the Twin Peaks wallpaper

When Twin Peaks premiered in April of 1990, I quickly found myself caught up in the show’s intricate and mysterious plot to discover who killed High School sweetheart, Laura Palmer. The series was groundbreaking and paved the way for many of the “puzzle series” we take for granted today like ‘Lost’, ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Westworld’. Twin Peaks’ writing, directing art direction and music all made it a cult classic that has been called by many one of the greatest TV dramas of all time.

As a die-hard Twin Peaks fan, I’m excited for the premiere of the new Limited Series coming to Showtime which airs on May 21st and will run for a full 18 episodes. Many of the original cast will return to reprise their rolls including Kyle MacLachlan, Mädchen Amick, Sherilyn Fenn, Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, and several others. To help celebrate Twin Peak’s return to television I took inspiration from some cool artwork created by artist and illustrator Chris Bishop. Chris created a neat Twin Peaks tribute graphic that I instantly knew would make for a great iOS wallpaper. I contacted him and received his permission to remix his original art and came up with something fun that any Twin Peaks fan would be proud to display on their iPhone or iPad.

The wallpaper depicts Special Agent Dale Cooper and Laura Palmer in the mysterious Red Room, along with a few surprises. It comes in two variants – Lock Screen and Home Screen and is ready to download to your favorite iOS device. My thanks to Chris for allowing me to run with his creation and to Mark Frost and David Lynch for bringing one of my all-time favorite TV series back from the dead. I can’t wait to see what the sleepy, mysterious town of Twin Peaks has in store for us this time. Enjoy!

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone SE – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPhone X – Twin Peaks Lock Screen

• iPhone SE – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Twin Peaks Home Screen
• iPhone X – Twin Peaks Home Screen

• iPad – Twin Peaks Lock Screen
• iPad – Twin Peaks Home Screen

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Next time you unlock your iPhone you can help Agent Cooper navigate the supernatural labyrinth called Twin Peaks and solve the mystery of who killed Laura Palmer. Be sure to check out my other iPhone wallpapers – Westworld, Star Trek LCARS, Pokéwall and more. Enjoy!

UPDATE: I’ve added 2 new iPhone X variants for use with iOS 11. The device’s tall format of means the wallpaper had to change to accommodate the new design. Enjoy!

The Uncertain Highway

dark lines of a highway at night racing towards us

Today Donald J. Trump becomes the 45th President of the United States. To say I never thought this day would come is probably my greatest understatement ever. I was certain we’d never see this man sitting in the Oval Office, yet here we are.

The journey from that stage of denial to today’s acceptance of his inauguration has been a tough one for myself and millions of my fellow Americans. At times it’s felt like I was shoved in a car by people I don’t know or associate with and forced to travel an unfamiliar highway late at night. What’s worse, the car has no headlights, no brakes and to top it all off we’re not even certain where we’re all going. Hopefully we can keep our wits about us and not drive off into the ditch. If we all do our part, God willing we’ll arrive someplace safe and not as bad as we originally thought.

This past week I spent time taking down Christmas decorations and as I was packing up the boxes I caught myself thinking “I hope this isn’t the last time I get to do this.” I was stunned to realize I actually thought such a thing but I had. What if this reckless, unfit, unqualified, corrupt bully of a man starts a war and kills us all? Is that posssible? As depressing as it sounds, yes, it certainly is. And if he doesn’t get us, climate change almost certainly will.

By the time I came back in the house however I started thinking of ways I and others can help make sure these things didn’t happen. Be kind to strangers, help those in need, call my local leaders and make damn sure they know Trump doesn’t speak for me or my family. Teach kids and grandkids to be self-reliant, keep an open mind and be tolerant of others. If you see an injustice being committed, especially to a person of color, speak up. Learn a new skill or trade and do what you need to do to take care of yourself both physically and mentally. It’s up to all of us to resist and not become complacent. It’s going to be so difficult these next four years to not simply give in to the constant stream of bullshit but that’s what we have to do. I for one am ready to fight, I’m ready to do my part to steady the wheel.

As one of my favorite cinematic characters once said “The future is not set, there is no fate but what we make.” Like her, I want to face that highway with a sense of hope for the future, not despair. It won’t be easy, and there are bound to be casualties along the way but I’m confident we’ll get there in the end if we work together and stay true to ourselves. Come with us if you want to live, love who you want and be free.

I Find Your Trump-Based Belief System Fascinating

I was listening to an interview with a 20-year female veteran on NPR today who’s struggled with whom to vote for this election. She said she ultimately decided she will vote for Trump because “more of his beliefs align with mine.”

As I listened, all I could think about was which beliefs of Trump’s those would be. The belief it’s okay to mock disabled people? The belief it’s acceptable to attack and disgrace a Gold Star family’s ultimate sacrifice? Maybe that it’s okay to call veterans like John McCain losers? Or perhaps it’s his belief that it is acceptable to be a sexual predator who forces himself on women when ever he feels like it? I have a feeling it’s his casual disregard for the Constitution like when he called for the population of an entire religion to be banned from the United States. I just can’t decide which belief(s) this woman shares with Trump.

When I hear just how little the things he’s said or done matter to a certain block of voters I’m reminded just how much sway emotion has over us. Lead with your heart, not your mind. Feelings are greater than facts. People also have a big tendency to stick to their tribal mindset way more than I’ve anticipated. It makes me depressed and saddened to think about them and where we’re headed in this country. Even when Hillary wins tomorrow, and she WILL win, we all still lose thanks to the millions of people who would rather be on the winning team than do what’s best for the entire country by electing a person who is for a lack of a better term – an asshole.

Westworld Wallpapers for iOS

Westworld lock screen wallpaper displayed on an outline iPhone 6'I admit it. I’m addicted to HBO’s new science fiction series – Westworld. Based on the 1973 thriller film written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton, HBO’s re-imagined series transports us to a futuristic theme park where people can live out every desire as part of the old west. Guests to the park can partake in over a hundred narrative storylines to search for lost treasure, hunt down wanted bandits or just visit the local saloons and brothels and have the vacation of a lifetime.

The show stars Oscar winning actor Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Ford, one of Westworld’s creators as well as Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy, a robot who’s entire world is not what she believes it to be. We’re only three episodes in but I’m already addicted to the show, what it all means and where it’s headed. I find the sheer logistics of such an imagined theme park fascinating – it’s like Disney World on mega steroids.

Every part of Westworld from the robot inhabitants, called “hosts”, to the livestock and even the landscape is fabricated all for the pleasure of the guests. It’s like a gigantic MMORPG but in real life, full of twists and turns, mystery and intrigue. It has elements of some of my favorite television shows like Battlestar Galactica and Firefly with a touch of World of Warcraft thrown in for good measure. If you subscribe to HBO, I really recommend you check it out. You can also follow @HBOWestworld for the latest news and sneak peeks about the show.

I love Westworld so much in fact I went ahead and created a set of lock and home screen wallpapers that you can use on your iPhone. I think I captured the spirit of the series with both the nod to the old west as well as its enigmatic future.

How to download and apply the wallpapers on iOS:

1) Click to view the wallpaper that best fits your device:

• iPhone SE – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Westworld Lock Screen

• iPhone SE – Westworld Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 – Westworld Home Screen
• iPhone 6,7 Plus – Westworld Home Screen

• iPad – Westworld Lock Screen
• iPad – Westworld Home Screen

2) Tap & hold on the image in mobile Safari & save it to your photo library

3) Open Photos, view the image then tap the Share button in the lower left

4) Scroll to the right in the Share menu and tap Use as Wallpaper

5) Pinch Zoom OUT on the image to size it exactly to the screen

6) Turn Perspective Zoom OFF

7) Tap Set > Set Lock Screen

That’s it! Next time you unlock your iPhone you can imagine you’re about to set out for adventure or whatever else may find you as you roam the vast, entertaining frontier that is HBO’s Westworld. Be sure to check out my other iPhone wallpapers – Star Trek LCARS, Pokéwall and more. Enjoy!

Holy Super-Overload, Batman!

Man ripping off shirt to reveal costume with dozens of super hero logos underneath

With Supergirl’s recent move to the CW network, I’ve started developing anxiety over this fall’s lineup of shows that start with the season premiere of The Flash on Tuesday, Oct. 4th. The CW has nearly cornered the market on the small-screen super hero genre and will have no less than four different DC properties running concurrently this fall – The Flash, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl.

So far I’ve only watched selected episodes of Supergirl but I liked what I saw and with Kara’s move from CBS, I’m more inclined to watch full time since the likelihood of more frequent crossovers seem logical. Kara’s (and by extension, Superman’s) world isn’t in the same multi-verse as the other three DC properties however and so she can’t just fly to Central City and team up with Barry Allen whenever she feels like it. This is probably a good thing or I’d feel even more compelled to watch every week and I can barely keep up with three shows as it is.

The premiere season of Legends of Tomorrow wasn’t spectacular either. It featured too many characters, uneven pacing and more super-cliche’s than I could shake a stick at. I’m prepared to give the new season a go for a few weeks but if they don’t step up Legend’s quality quickly, I’ll gladly sacrifice it in order to try and keep my sanity.

Montage of Supergirl, Green Arrow and The Flash character portraits

Since all these shows reference each other, it’s important to watch them all in tandem to get the most out of them and therein lies the rub. How am I supposed to keep up with an ever-expanding array of superheroes and their villainous counterparts from week to week? Supergirl on Monday nights, The Flash on Tuesdays, Arrow on Wednesdays and Legends on Thursdays. I fear all of this is enough to make me want to swear off the DC TV universe for good.

Managing four superhero properties and their inter-relationships has to be difficult for the show runners but the payoff for the network has huge potential. By binding these four titles to each other, they’re essentially turning them into one, huge, can’t-miss CW television show each week. For fans this would seem like a win-win scenario, but with a continuous stream of quality shows like Daredevil, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the new Luke Cage series coming to Netflix, our time and attention spans are ever-shortenting. I just hope they can deliver on the kinds of quality story writing, acting and special effects that are needed to keep us all tuning in for four hours of super-programming every week. Otherwise I’m afraid I’ll be giving my DVR a much needed break.

A Sticker By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

Sweet Stickypoo Sticker

So imagine that thing you’ve built your entire professional career on, something you love to create with a burning passion, slowly fades from popularity. Day by day people have less and less use for it, fewer and fewer people write you to make requests. You try to stay the course and keep doing your thing, but doubts inevitably creep in.

Then one day you find you’re just not doing it any more. You’re not really sure what happened but somewhere along the way it just… stopped. It pains you that people no longer love or even really need the thing you’ve honed your craft on for close to twenty years, but what can be done?

You go about your business, applying what you’ve learned to other areas of your discipline. Occasionally a project invites you to play in the fields you once roamed with glee, but they seem few and far between.

Then one day something comes along that turns the old thing you loved to do into something new and exciting. It presents that thing in a whole new, modern way and lets you express your creativity as never before to an entirely new audience. These people are too young to really remember you or where you’ve come from but that doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you’re standing in the middle of those lush, green fields once again and the sky is literally the limit. It may not last a year, a few months or even a week but for now, for right now, it’s just as fun, just as compelling and fulfilling as it ever was and it is glorious.

Those “things” are simply icons. Desktop icons, specifically.

They are what, since yesterday, we now call stickers in Messages but they’ll always be icons to me. Their introduction in iOS 10 represents a new era for icon artists like myself who once toiled for endless hours to create piles and piles of icons that people could download and use on their computer desktops. We created them because it was fun for us as artists and especially fun for those who collected them.

The advent of the iPhone and mobile era changed all that and desktop icons went out of fashion. People were glued to their tiny screens and didn’t have the time or attention span to customize their desktop folders and hard drives any longer. With the advent of iOS 10 however, people once again have a way to collect and share those tiny, iconic works of art in the form of iMessage stickers. Stickers, perhaps even more than emoji have the capacity to inspire and delight people as never before and I have completely enjoyed creating them during these precious weeks leading up to yesterday’s launch. I’ve been working with my friends at the Iconfactory to bring hundreds of icons stickers to life and it has been a blast. I’ve worked with outside artists as well and watching them create has been joyous.

Stickers may turn out to be another flash in the digital pan and fade quickly into the sunset but that hardly matters. Even if they do, for one brief moment, they allowed me to re-energize, create and dream what might be possible. In short, they have inspired me. As an artist I can truly say this matters more to me than all the tea in China. Thank you, Apple. I owe you one.

Guest Judging Food Network’s ‘Cake Wars’ Was a Sweet Treat

Cake Wars Emoji Panel

Pictured L to R: Myself, Cake Wars regular judges Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas with host Jonathan Bennett

In my career as an icon artist I’ve had the privilege of working on tons of great projects, meeting fascinating people and participating in lots of wonderful events. This past March however, I was invited to appear on the Food Network’s reality baking competition, Cake Wars, as a guest judge and quite simply, it was an adventure of a lifetime. The theme of the episode I was to appear on was emoji, something I’ve become intimately familiar with these past few years. Needless to say when we received a request for one of us to fly to L.A. and participate as a judge I nearly fell out of my chair. From start to finish, my experience on Cake Wars was fantastic and so I just want to share some of those experiences with you.

The Journey

I’ve been a fan of reality TV cooking competitions for years with shows like Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, The Great British Baking Show and more recently Food Network’s Chopped and Cutthroat Kitchen. Over the years I’ve considered applying to a few of these shows in the hopes of showing off my amateur cooking skills but had never gotten off my butt to do it. So you can imagine how amazing it was to ultimately be sitting at the Cake Wars judging table next to the incredibly talented Ron Ben-Israel and Waylynn Lucas.

From our initial email exchanges to arranging the trip, all of the people from Super Delicious, the company that produces Cake Wars for Food Network, were positively wonderful and made my time on set a joy. My first surprise happened as soon as I stepped out of the car on the Cake Wars lot. Ron Ben-Israel had also just arrived and he immediately came over to greet me outside the main door. He stepped right up, introduced himself and said “You must be Gedeon!” As we entered the building, he proceeded to tell me all about myself, where I went to school, some of the projects I’ve worked on over the years and even how long I’ve been at the Iconfactory. “You see Gedeon, I do my homework!” The sheer fact that Ron warmly greeted me and knew all about me was such a thoughful way to be welcomed to the set that I could hardly believe it.

All throughout the day, Ron helped me to know where to look for the camera, gave me speaking tips and even signed an autograph for me which I now have hanging on my desk at work. He even took time to answer any and all questions I peppered him with like how he makes the incredible buttercream for his award-winning cakes! In exchange I showed him how to receive animated emoji on his iPhone and tried not to gush over sitting right next to him *too* much. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say for the record that Waylynn Lucas and host Jonathan Bennett were also both super nice to me as were the entire crew of over 60 people. It was easy to see they had all done their jobs dozens of times before and knew where they should be, how to speak, what the director was looking for and more from the start.

Judge’s Table

If you’ve ever watched TV and wondered what it must be like to sit behind the judge’s table to critique culinary creations, let me try and set the scene. Cake Wars is broken down into two rounds; a smaller initial round where one of the four contestant teams is eliminated at the end and then a big, show-stopping round with the winner receiving a $10,000 prize. I’m not going to spoil the episode and tell you who won (you’ll have to watch to find out) but I will say that watching the bakers work and tasting their creations was a privilege. Both Ron and Waylynn warned me to be prepared to taste both great and not-so-great cakes and naturally they were right. Some were moist and delicious, some were flavored perfectly and some were so sweet they made my toes curl.

All of the cakes arrived at the judge’s table via production assistants with perfectly cut slices, meticulously arranged on white flatware in front of me. Needless to say I took great care when handling my fork and made sure to take my time, taste everything and made mental notes on each as I went. Thankfully the producers explained my primary concern was to critique the overall design and visual appeal of the cakes, how well they conformed to the emoji theme of the challenges and if they had been executed well or poorly. Since I’m not a food critic I gratefully kept the majority of my comments focused on the designs of the cakes. The contestants seemed to appreciate my feedback through the various rounds.

Behind the Scenes

Between rounds, each of the judges had the opportunity to retreat to their dressing rooms while the contestants baked. The final round happens over the course of 4 hours and so there’s a lot of work on set for the contestants to get their show-stopping cakes completed before time expires. The production assistant explained to me they would come and get all of us for the final 30 minutes of baking but I asked if I could stay in my seat and watch while they worked. She allowed me to remain on set and I’m so glad I did. Not only did I get to see the inner workings of the show and how it’s filmed but I also was able to ask one of the floor directors a bunch of questions that he graciously answered.

One thing I asked was if the producers look forward to “food disasters”, i.e. when cakes fall or major mistakes occur on set. His answer was telling. He explained that of course most producers will say they think these unplanned problems make for great TV, but they also tend to push the production schedule later in the day, sometimes much later and that’s bad. Things have to be re-filmed, stations reset and it just throws a monkey wrench into the works which wastes time, money and makes the entire production crew cranky. Ultimately he explained that Food Network wants the contestants to succeed in their efforts and produce the best cakes they can so in reality, it’s better to have everything go as smoothly as possible in the end.

That’s a Wrap

From the moment I stepped onto the studio lot, just like the emoji I was there to judge, I wore a huge smile across my face. To say I was honored to be a part of Food Network’s Cake Wars emoji episode just doesn’t do it justice. It was quite literally a foodie’s dream come true to be able to travel to L.A. and participate in judging these amazing cakes from talented bakers across the country. One of the teams however was much closer to home than I ever suspected.

I learned just this week that one of the teams I judged is based right here in Greensboro, NC! I went to visit Taylor Kisselstein at Easy Peasy Decadent Desserts and ordered a dozen cupcakes (emoji of course!) for the viewing party I held at my home the night the episode aired. Thanks, Taylor!

When I think back on my experience I will always remember the excitement of being on the set, but I also warmly recall the people, especially Ron Ben-Israel. He is a professional in every sense of the word with an amazing talent for baking positively beautiful cakes. I’ve spoken with him a few times since filming and even now he continues to be just as warm, gracious and helpful as he was that day and has even encouraged me to audition for Chopped! To him, and all the other members of the cast, crew and production team, and to everyone at Food Network, thank you for having me on the show. It was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.

The Emoji episode of Cake Wars is available for purchase via iTunes. Enjoy!

Miscellaneous Thoughts & Observations

• Each of the judge’s chairs have a leather pouch hanging from the back of the seat for their cell phone should they wish to keep it handy but not on their person during filming

• The feeling you get when you see your own name on a dressing room door is just as amazeballs as you can imagine

• Ron Ben-Israel used to subscribe to MacAddict Magazine & was a huge Mac gear head back in the day

• Multiple people on set told me the “Minecraft” ep of Cake Wars was… challenging to film

• Each baking team has its own “story producer” who encourages them on set to be energetic, enthusiastic & speak clearly during the course of filming

• If all teams are in the weeds and are behind, the producers have been known to give them extra time to complete their cake creations

• Almost all of the judge’s dialog is unscripted. In contrast, nearly 100% of host Jonathan Bennett’s dialog is written for the camera. The script is edited in real time and constantly finessed and adjusted as events unfold during filming

• Fraternizing with the contestants prior to filming was strictly forbidden. Also, if one of the contestants approached me before filming began I was supposed to let the powers that be know O_o

• Having to eliminate people from possibly winning a $10,000 prize really stinks

• Awarding a $10,000 prize to a talented cake artist is incredibly awesome and more than makes up for the former 🙂

Why I Love the Music of ‘The Martian’

While I was watching ‘The Martian‘ for the umpteenth time I had a mini-epiphany regarding the film’s music. One of the best parts of the movie for me is the sprawling, technical and beautiful score by Harry Gregson-Williams but I never realized why I loved it so much until recently. If you’re a fan of space-themed stuff like Carl Sagan’s Cosmos series then be sure to check out my take on the music of ‘The Martian’ in this short YouTube video.

Update: Here are links to all 3 albums discussed in the video:

The Martian – (Original Motion Picture Score)
Vangelis – Albedo 0.39
Vangelis – Direct

How to Make Spiral Cut Hot Dogs

As recipes go this is about as simple as it gets so it’s not really about the ingredients so much as the technique. Why spiral cut your hot dogs prior to grilling them? When spiral cut, the hot dog ends up having more surface area to cook and this means more of that yummie, caramelized goodness after it comes off the grill. It also is just plain fun and looks cool on the plate. One you go spiral, you never go back.

My ‘Game of Thrones’ S6 Wish List

Tyrion & Varys In Meereen

SPOILER WARNING: This post covers events up to and including the first episode of S6’s Game of Thrones ‘The Red Woman’. If you’re not caught up, you probably want to hop the next boat to Essos because there’s nothing ahead for you except spoilers and regret. You’ve been warned!

After what seemed like an unusually long hiatus (it wasn’t I just was going through GoT withdrawal), one of my favorite TV shows of all time has returned to HBO for season 6 – Game of Thrones. Last season was an amazing mix of drama and building suspense as we witnessed Daenerys evolving from conquerer to ruler, endured the horrors of Sansa Stark’s betrothal to Ramsay Bolton and witnessed the coming fight with the White Walkers and their undead army. I’ve never read any of the novels but that no longer seems to matter as the show has now caught up to the novels and as such, season 6 should be as much of a surprise to book readers as to the rest of us.

To say I’m excited for season 6 would be a massive understatement but this was also true for each of the previous seasons as well. Like any dedicated fan, I find myself hoping for specific plots to take focus or characters and places to be revealed on screen so I thought I’d put together a wish list of those plots, characters and places I’m longing to see in season 6.

Casterly Rock

Casterly Rock is the seat of power for the Lannister family, an impressive castle hewn out of solid rock on the western-most shores of Westeros. The books describe Casterly Rock as almost two leagues long from west to east, containing tunnels, dungeons, storerooms, barracks, halls, stables, stairways, courtyards, balconies, and gardens. It’s popularly believed to resemble a giant lion in repose when the setting sun strikes it. We’ve heard the Rock mentioned numerous times in the television series but we’ve never actually seen it yet.

In the novels, Casterly Rock sits atop one of Westerns’ most productive gold mines which helps account for the Lannister family’s enormous wealth. Due to its legendary status, it is said visitors to the Rock sometimes believe the entire fortress was constructed out of solid gold. Artists and fans have put forth their interpretations of Casterly Rock but I really want to see how the show’s creators depict the mythical home of Tyrion, Jamie, Cerise and Tywin Lannister. Hopefully we’ll finally get to visit this epic destination in season 6 of Game of Thrones.

Cerise’s Revenge

You know a series’ writing is top notch when it can take one of the most reviled villains in all of television and turn them into a protagonist. Such was the case last season with the evolution of the incestuous Queen Cersei Lannister. Things have not been going well for Cersei for several seasons but by the end of S5 I was squarely on her side. Between being locked in prison by religious fanatics, her humiliating atonement of being forced to walk naked through the streets of King’s Landing, and watching two of her three children violently murdered, I’d say Cersei deserves some payback.

The Mountain carries Cerise to safety

When Cersei had Tyrion wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of King Jeoffery (her eldest son) back in S4, I didn’t think I could hate a fictional character more than I hated Cersei. But the winds of change blow quickly in Westeros and given how much delight others have taken in the physical and emotional torture of the Queen, I now find myself counting the minutes until she unleashes her new pet, the re-animated remains of The Mountain on her oppressors. I’d like nothing more than to see the High Sparrow and Septa Unella beaten to death with their beloved Bell of Shame. Fingers crossed!

The Long-Overdue Stark Reunion

Ever since the end of season 1, the House of Stark has been a poster child for familial tragedy. With the death of their father, Eddard Stark at the hands of King Joffrey, the Starks were split up across Westeros, torn apart by war, distance and circumstances beyond their control. In particular, the two sisters, Sansa and Arya have not seen each other in years, nor do they even know the other is still alive. We’ve all been waiting patiently for at least 2 of the surviving Starks to get an on-screen reunion but to be honest I’m not sure we ever will.

The premiere episode of season 6 presents us with a small glimmer of hope however as Brienne of Tarth arrives in time to save Sansa and her slave turned savior, Theon Grayjoy from Ramsay Bolton’s soldiers and vicious hounds. Brienne lays her sword at Sansa’s feet and pledges her life to protect and defend her, and Sansa gladly accepts her and Podrick’s service. I’m willing to bet good Lannister gold that the first order of business in episode 2 will be for Brienne to reveal to Sansa that Arya is still alive, or at least she was when she and Podrick encountered Arya on their way to the Eyrie.

Brienne pledges her service to Sansa Stark

Will this revelation set Sansa and company on the road to find her long, lost sister? Perhaps, but more likely they will continue north to Castle Black where they believe Sansa’s half-brother, Jon Snow is alive and ready to help them. Little do they know that Jon was betrayed by his fellow Knight’s Watch brothers and killed as a traitor just a few short hours ago. Then again, perhaps Jon will be alive (and well?) when they arrive, which brings me to the final item on my Game of Thrones wish list.

Zombie Jon Snow

So many Starks have bitten the dust over the course of six seasons, you would think losing the bastard son Jon Snow at the end of S5 would feel like a pin prick, but you’d be wrong. Deemed a traitor by the Knight’s Watch for going beyond the wall and attempting to work with and save the Wildlings from the evil White Walkers, Jon was stabbed over and over again and left for dead in the cold snow.

Fans of the book and TV series alike have all theorized that Jon isn’t actually dead however and that he may come back to “life” as either a minion of the Walkers or as a resurrected servant of the Lord of Light, courtesy of the Woman in Red, Melisandre. Personally I think the former theory would be much more fun and lead to some seriously cool scenes where Jon takes revenge on the Knights Watch members who betrayed him, including Ollie, but the later is much more likely. Jon has king’s blood in him you see and there was plenty of it left over in a big, strange puddle after Sir Davos recovered his body. Perhaps Melisandre can work her magic one last time and defrost Jon in time for Sansa’s arrival at Castle Black. Whatever the ultimate fate of Jon Snow, I think it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing more of him very soon.

Hopefully at least some of these wishful predictions will come true in the weeks ahead as we journey through season 6 of Game of Thrones. If they do, I’ll be sure to update this post with all the relevant developments. The Stark Reunion is by far the least likely but I’m hopeful Cerise’s revenge will soon come to pass. No matter what happens, it’s going to be fun to watch!

•••

UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that several items from my wish list came to pass in last night’s ‘Home’. I was extremely happy to see Cerise’s revenge lumber into action as the re-animated Mountain squashed that dude who waved his junk at the Queen during Cersei’s Walk of Shame. It felt like a medieval Michael Meyers moment and I can’t wait to see who’s next.

As predicted, Brienne told Sansa about her encounter with Arya and also as predicted, the group (sans Theon) will continue onto Castle Black. Finally, we witnessed the anticipated resurrection of Jon Snow. Can’t wait to see the faces of Team Snow when Jon walks out of that room with Ghost at his side. ‘Home’ was a great second episode (giants flinging archers against walls… splat!) in what promises to be an incredible season. Can’t wait for more!

Animated Carl Sagan Radio Interview

If you follow me on Twitter or have frequented my blog then you probably know the late astronomer, Carl Sagan, is a personal hero of mine. It was in part thanks to him I became fascinated with science and outer space at a young age. His ground breaking PBS series Cosmos: A Personal Voyage held me enraptured when it aired in 1980 and his books and writings like The Pale Blue Dot are among my all-time favorite.

I wish this brief radio interview from 1985 with Studs Terkel was longer, but regardless it’s wonderful to hear him expound on life in the cosmos, how science strives to uncover universal truths and how religion is tied to the history of our species. If you love Sagan, astronomy or just need a few minutes to take a break from the stress of the day, press play and check it out. You can also learn more about Sagan via the SciShow’s wonderful video tribute to him they recently produced. Great, starry stuff.

I Swear He Had Orange Eyes. Orange Eyes!

Donald Trump and Scut Farkus

Back during the run-up to the 2008 election, I blogged about politics a lot and I do mean a lot. Barack Obama’s historic contest against John McCain had so much riding on it after the disastrous 8 years we experienced under George W. Bush and Dick Cheney I felt personally compelled to speak up. Back then, Obama was a relatively unknown quantity trying to pull off an upset against an establishment candidate and the more we all weighed in, the better.

Since then, I’ve somehow managed to avoid blogging about politics. During the election of 2012 I dabbled with a few posts but mainly stayed out of the fray. I think this was mainly because I was confident Obama would win re-election and thankfully that’s what came to pass. President Obama ultimately convinced a majority of the American people that he had done a good enough job with his first four years that he deserved to continue his efforts for another term. Since his re-election unemployment is at historically low levels, the Dow & stock markets are up, the price of gas is down, great strides have been made towards marriage equality and more Americans are insured than ever before. I firmly believe if Barack Obama could run for a third term, he’d win in a landslide.

Which brings us to 2016. Like so many, I’ve watched the run-up to the Presidential Primaries with a mix of astonishment, disgust and a newfound understanding for just how badly some people are willing to set aside good judgement for their political beliefs. When Donald Trump first announced his candidacy for President by descending an escalator to throngs of people paid to be there and support him, not for one instant did I actually believe he would become the GOP nominee. I sat and watched the first FOX News debate with both of my parents and told them again and again that Trump would never make the cut. I truly underestimated how far bluster, simple-talk, and praying on people’s fear will get a bully in politics.

No longer.

The rise of Donald Trump deeply disturbs and offends me and makes me want to start blogging once again. It’s not enough to simply sit on the sidelines and watch others call him out for his egotism, misogyny, racism and utter lack of respect for the truth. There’s a big part of me that can’t believe people actually want this ignorant blowhard to become the leader of the free world. More and more I feel it’s the job of everyone who opposes him to stand up and make their voices heard.

I know I probably won’t change the hearts or minds of those who support him. There will always be those who adorn their cars with TRUMP bumper stickers or their heads with “Make America Great Again” hats and they have already made up their willful minds. For them, I suspect, it’s not so much about backing a billionaire who blames illegal immigrants or muslims for their live’s problems as much as it is for spite.

Since Obama took office, conservatives have felt slighted by republicans in Congress who’ve continually ignored their demands. In time they fought back and begat what eventually became the Tea Party. When the Tea Party didn’t get the job done they naturally latched onto the biggest bully they could find to muscle their agenda through – Trump. Trump promises the sun and the moon if they’ll just trust him. Never-mind the fact he has zero political experience and doesn’t know the difference between Hamas and Hezbollah.

Grover Dill & Scut Farkus from 'A Christmas Story'

Collectively, Trump’s supporters remind me of Grover Dill, the smirking toady of school yard bully Scut Farkus in ‘A Christmas Story’. To Dill, Ralphie (in this case liberals and RHINO’s alike) are weak sheep who deserve the political pummeling they’re about to receive and Trump is just the ruffian to dish it out. Grover’s out for revenge and isn’t afraid to talk smack, but careful to stay firmly behind the bully. The curious thing about most bullies however is they’re really just big babies who run home sniveling when you turn and give them a taste of their own medicine.

Like Ralphie, I’ve had enough of this thin-skinned, can-dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it buffoon so yes, I’ll be blogging more about politics from now on. If you care about what I have to say then tune in here from time to time or follow me on Twitter for my thoughts on this great circus we call an election. It’s a long time until November and anything can happen but I’m hoping to add my voice to the growing choir of progressives, conservatives and even children who all agree Donald Trump should never, ever be allowed anywhere near the Oval Office.